A zookeeper is responsible for the day-to-day care of animals in a zoo, wildlife park, aquarium or special collection. He may look after several types of animal or a specific one -- particularly if his studies have focused on a particular species. A zookeeper feeds the animals, cleans their enclosures, monitors their health and physical condition, and devises means by which to keep the animals active and engaged in captivity. Zookeepers also give information to public visitors and may give educational talks about the animals in their care. A zookeeper's salary will vary according to employer and location.
In its national survey of employment in the United States conducted in May 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics listed the average annual salary for zoo-keeping and other nonfarm animal caretakers as £14,189, equivalent to £1,182 per month and £6.80 an hour. Job analysis website StateUniversity reported that the median salary for zookeepers specifically, as of 2011, was £18,200, or £9 per hour. It claimed that with experience and additional training, a zookeeper may be able to earn upwards of £26,000 a year.
Salary by Industry
The Bureau of Labor Statistics listed the average salary for animal care workers working in zoos and similar organisations, listed by the bureau under professional, scientific and technical services, as £13,182 per year. Other employment opportunities for zookeepers included spectator sports, such as circuses, where the average salary was given as £14,644, and federal government agencies, often as inspectors or caretakers at government facilities, which paid an average of £24,706.
Salary by Location
Another significant influence on zookeeper salaries is geographical location. Wage comparison website SalaryExpert analysed zookeeper salaries in some major American cities and found that Boston, Massachusetts had the highest average pay, at £19,534. Orlando, Florida, and Charlotte, North Carolina, had comparable levels of pay of £16,642 and £16,448, respectively, while Dallas, Texas, was listed at just £14,635. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, across all industry sectors, Hawaii and Alaska were among the states in which wages were highest, with £20,306 and £17,673, respectively. Kentucky was listed at just £13,188.
The bureau predicts that during the decade running from 2008 to 2018, employment possibilities for animal care workers of all kinds will increase by around 21 per cent, but they expect the growth rate to be slightly slower for zookeepers due to the comparatively small number of exotic animal parks and zoos, and the keen competition for vacancies that do arise. A growing population with increasing demand for entertainment options should still result in job growth for the occupation, and salaries are likely to remain competitive.